Go Deeper

Gerre Garrett Talks Real Housewives of South Philly

Posted September 2nd, 2011

The Waitstaff Sketch Comedy Troupe PhotographGerre Garrett may be one of Philly’s most treasured comedians — not only is she starring in Philly Fringe’s The Real Housewives of South Philly Jump the Shark!, she’s also producing Eric Singel’s THE WEDDING CONSULTANT. A member of The Waitstaff since its inception in 2003, Gerre knows what she’s talkin’ about.

How are theĀ Real Housewives of South Philly different/similar to the housewives on the reality TV shows? (I bet they’re much funnier): The Real Housewives of South Philly are somewhere on a continuum between Charlies Angels and The Golden Girls. There’s Bev, the smart one; Marie, the sexy one who’s always pregnant, “but it’s always by the same two guys;” and I am The Duchess, the loud mouthed, bossy one. You usually see them out on the stoop in South Philly; but they have been known to to go to an Eagles game, a Philly’s game and an Irish pub. Last year they even went to the Philly Fringe where the Duchess’ son was appearing in a show called “Chickens and Death.” The housewives were created by WaitStaffer Sara Carano (Marie) who actually lives in South Philly and gets a lot of her inspiration from her neighborhood.

After the jump, Gerre talks about her origins in sketch, the comedy scene, and her picks for this years festivals.

Where are you from? I grew up in Elkton, Md. but now reside in Brookhaven, in Delaware County

How did you get your start in sketch? A group of us started doing sketch comedy at The Brick Playhouse on South Street in the 1990’s. It was called “Friday Night Dive” and we soon discovered that there was a big audience for live sketch. In 2003, we left the Brick and began performing as The WaitStaff.

Any comedy heroes or role models? In no particular order: Carol Burnett, Charlie Chaplin, Dick Van Dyke, Jon Stewart, Mad TV, In Living Color, Kids in the Hall, Tracey Ullman, Catherine Tate, Stephen Colbert.

What is the most challenging thing about sketch comedy? For me, it’s the writing. It’s a constant process of revising. In the last few years, The WaitStaff shows have really evolved from a series of unrelated sketches to a theatrical event more like a play, with recurring characters, running gags, and overarching themes.

Why do you think that sketch comedy is under-represented in Philadelphia? I’m not really sure but it may have something to do with the fact that it’s pretty labor intensive. These days, it takes us about a month to write the show and then we rehearse–Domenick Scudera is our resident director–for at least another month. It’s also hard to identify a good venue for what we do. Traditional theater spaces are usually cost prohibitive and/or not the right “vibe.” Comedy clubs or cabaret spaces pose a challenge in that they are more suited for stand-up performers or musicians. Finally, most sane sketch comedians are producing videos that can reach a much larger audience on Youtube, Funnyordie, collegehumor, et al. The WaitStaff hasn’t really tapped into that whole thing in part because we really love the live performance aspect of what we do.

I think that a “comedy crossover” would be helpful in bringing exposure to sketch groups like The Waitstaff, The Feeko Brothers,and others. Do you think that people understand the difference between sketch and improv? I’m pretty sure people don’t know the difference between improv and sketch. For a long time, The WaitStaff had fun with that fact. We even used to do a song titled “Sketch VS. Improv.” I’m thinking lately, though, that it’s really not that big a deal. People want to go see funny stuff and they’ll come back if they had a good time.

Are there a particular shows in the festival that you’d like to see?
I’m thrilled to be producing fellow WaitStaffer, Eric Singel’s show, THE WEDDING CONSULTANT. I also can’t wait to see The Arsonists (The Firebugs), The Method Gun, and Lady M.

What do you want to do next, professionally or otherwise?
I’m looking forward to teaching at Drexel University and working with Philadelphia Young Playwrights as a Teaching Artist. My husband and I are planning a trip to Italy in October.

Would you rather always get first dibs or the last laugh?
That’s easy! He who laughs, lasts!

The Real Housewives of South Philly Jump the Shark! opens tonight and runs through September 18, at L’Etage Cabaret, 624 South 6th Street, $15. Times vary.

–Christina Snyder